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Reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Posted on March 26, 2023, by Mary Swain SL

John 11:1-45

We just heard a tender story about Martha, Mary, Lazarus and Jesus. The evangelist, John, has Jesus saying that he, Jesus, is the resurrection and the life. John has Jesus saying further, “Whoever believes in me, even if she or he dies, will live.”

In these words Jesus is not talking about rolling back large stones and calling someone out whose hands and feet and head are wrapped in cloths. He is talking to all of us who are up and about, not dead. John has Jesus say more: “Whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.” Will never die? Our experience is that death happens, people do die. Jesus’ experience and John’s experience certainly were the same — an experience over and over again of death happening in the community. In the natural course of things, the body gives out, the person dies. Jesus did not change that reality.

As we know, Jesus is talking to those who are alive, so it behooves us to listen to him.  He is calling attention to himself, it seems. “I am the Life. Whoever believes in me will come to life.” Yet we also know that John has Jesus speak of himself as “the Way” — the way to God, not to himself.  In the Christian tradition, we know Jesus as the one who is God with us. In the Christian Scriptures, we find that Jesus does what God would do. Perhaps we could say that Jesus gives us a glimpse into the mind and heart of God.

As Christians we strive to do as Jesus did. We must believe in Jesus, he says, so that we will come to life, so that we will be alive. That is the way, the Christian way, given to us by birth, by circumstances, by choice. The human person, we believe, is made for life. The human person is made for transformation into the Holy. We say we want to act from the God within us, not from a place of ego or of selfishness. Other religious traditions use words and expressions and metaphors different from ours to speak of the Other, to express something of the Holy. There is a oneness in it all. All of us, all of creation, are really one in the life-giving One whom people name as God, Allah, Presence, Spirit, the Holy.

Jesus gives us a window onto that reality. Whoever we believe Jesus to be, we can hardly go wrong in acting in the world as Jesus did. That is one way to believe in Jesus so we don’t die — do as he did, love as he loved, give as he gave. Then with him we can come to know ourselves and others as unbound, as free, as one with all that is.


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.